What an awesome performance by Carolina’s defense in the second half this Saturday. Kentucky was limited to just 73 yards in the final frame, and Carolina’s defensive line was in the backfield on nearly every play. It was a fantastic team effort, one that I contend was jump-started by Victor Hampton on the final play of the first half.
On that play, as you may recall, Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow was pressured and sacked by Aldrick Fordham, losing the ball in the process. At least four Gamecocks had a chance to fall on the football, but it squirted away from all of them and into the arms of wide receiver Demarco Robinson. As Robinson raced toward the end zone, an alert Victor Hampton ran parallel to the goal line, bringing him down and ensuring that he wasn’t able to fall forward over the goal line. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that Hampton actually falls forward onto Robinson rather than getting up after the tackle (reminiscent of Larry Munson pleading with Georgia’s defenders to “LAY DOWN, YOU GUYS!!!” during the 1993 Carolina-Georgia contest that’s sure to be replayed countless times this week). The move wasted a few precious seconds as Kentucky, which had already used all of its timeouts, scrambled to get to the line and snap the ball quickly.
Would Kentucky have gotten the play off had Hampton stood up quickly? Maybe not. There was a lot of confusion on the field, and with a freshman quarterback who needed to look back to the sideline for the play call, there’s a chance the clock would have run out anyway. But Hampton left no doubt. It was a heads-up play that showed fantastic awareness as Hampton played within the rules to limit Kentucky’s chances. I know it seems simple. But if Kentucky scores on that drive, I’m not so sure we come back and win that game. 24-7 is a lot different than 17-7, especially when you consider how deflating that touchdown would have been. Remember, Kentucky’s drive started with a poor snap on a Carolina fourth down play that the Gamecocks never should have attempted to convert anyway. When this season is over, we may look back on this play as one of the most important moments of the entire year.